M is for Miyajima, Matsuyama, Macau, Melaka, Manchester, and Monte Alban
Miyajima, Japan (May 1987 and March 1988)
Miyajima is a town near Hiroshima, located on the island of Itsukushima. This beautiful, serene place has been considered a holy site for hundreds of years. In the past, women were not allowed on the island and older people were sent off the island to die, to maintain the "ritual purity" of the island. Since the monk Kobo Daishi ascended Mt. Misen in 806 AD and established the island as an ascetic site for the Shingon sect of Buddhism, the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines share the island in peace and friendship. (Japanese religions are compatible--in fact, the Japanese say you are born as a Buddhist and you die as a Shinto!)
|On Mt. Misen, 1987|
|In front of the famous shrine, 1987|
|I wasn't crazy about the island's wild monkeys...|
|Adorable little girl feeding the tame deer|
|Visiting Miyajima with Mom and Dad, 1988|
|This might be Kyoto, not Miyajima--not sure!!|
|With Mom and Dad in front of the shrine, 1988|
My dad was just about to turn 50, the age my husband just turned!
|So serene and beautiful!|
Matsuyama, Japan (May 1987)
Before my friend Abby and I went to Hiroshima and Miyajima, we went to Shikoku, an island off of Honshu. Matsuyama is known for its hot springs (Dogo Onsen) and its castle, which is perched way up on a mountain (Katsuyama) that overlooks the town. It's one of Japan's most beautiful original castles, constructed between 1602 and 1628.
|At the top of the mountain, Matsuyama|
|View of the city|
|After a Japanese bath, with a cup of tea (1987)|
Mike and first went to Macau (a small island nation between Hong Kong and China) with Debbie and her boyfriend Herb in 1987. Macau is a former Portugese colony, and since we visited it, like Hong Kong, has reverted back to China. When we visited the island, it was still administered by Portugal. Tourism and gambling drive the economy, and it has the second-largest life expectancy in the world! We returned to Macau in July 1989, at the beginning of our big trip. You can reach Macau from Hong Kong by boat.
|Boat to Macau, 1987|
Both times we stayed in the wonderful old colonial Bela Vista Hotel, which now is apparently the home of the Portugese consul in Macau. The hotel has a wonderful history, and it was a great place to stay to experience this country as it once was.
|Breakfast on the veranda, 1987|
|Another moment on the veranda|
|View from the hotel|
|Visiting again in 1989, in the beginnings our great adventure|
We visited the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral (one of Macau's most famous spots), which is the ruins of a 16th century complex consisting of a college and cathedral. Built by the Jesuits in the late 1500s, the cathedral was one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia at the time. It was destroyed by fire during a typhoon in 1835.
|Visiting St. Paul ruins in 1987 (I used to wear miniskirts in those days!)|
|Returning again in 1989|
We weren't really gamblers, so the closest we got to a casino was ducking our head in. In 1987, the country had only a few casinos. Similar to what I found about Kuala Lumpur from what I see on the Internet, the country has changed completely since the 1980s. It's much more upscale and glitzy now. Back in those days it was a quaint, Chinese-Portugal island.
The other thing I remember is eating amazing Portugese food--specifically great red wine and curried crab. It was to die for!
Melaka, Malaysia (December 1988)
We by bus from Singapore at 8:00 p.m. after a long, tiring journey. Immediately when we disembarked, we were bombarded by touts trying to offer us taxis, places to stay, and who knows what else. There was a particularly persistent little fellow named Cowboy Lim, who desperately wanted us to come to his guesthouse. We tried to call a couple of other places listed in our guidebook, but he showed us photos and recommendations from other travelers, so we finally said yes. He went out excitedly to hail an additional trishaw since he already had an Australian couple in his own trishaw. We had a leisurely ride to the guesthouse, passing many historical sites. Melaka has a rich historical and cultural heritage from previous Portugese, British, and Dutch rule. In 2008, the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|Cowboy Lim and his trishaw|
By morning, we were more than ready to leave Cowboy Lim's. Mike felt ill and had been bitten alive by ants in the night (or bed bugs?), and neither of us had gotten much sleep. The place had no hot water so we couldn't freshen up...and we didn't have towels either. It wasn't easy convincing Lim that we were not going to stay another night. Were we to stay in Melaka longer, we would have found another place--with no bugs and our own bathroom.
He pleaded and cajoled and finally accepted it, after we'd agreed to go on a trishaw tour with him! It's hard to comprehend how these skinny little trishaw drivers haul heavy foreigners around. The Australian couple, especially, must have been pretty heavy. The drivers don't seem to sweat at all.
|A Famosa, Melaka|
|St. Paul's church ruins|
I googled Cowboy Lim, and he is still working as a trishaw driver and guesthouse operator, 26 years later! He's also on Facebook! He looks quite a bit older, but his trishaw is much fancier--he must be doing well for himself! In fact, it looks like it might be a motorscooter-trishaw now! He had a small daughter when we were there, so I suspect he was younger than his mustache made him look. Maybe he's hired an exterminator, too.
|Cowboy Lim now|
I haven't spent much time in Manchester, but we did visit Mike's sister Kath when she was attending university there. My most vivid memory of our Manchester trip was going out for an Indian meal for Kath's birthday with a huge crowd of her (poor) university friends, and no one else (besides us) left a tip for the server. Back then, tipping was not as common in the UK...and even when they did tip, it was usually a much lower percentage than here in the United States.
From what little I know of Manchester, it has a very famous football team and a rich history, starting in 79 AD! It grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution and has a strong working-class history.
|The only photo I have of Manchester--college student Kath|
Monte Alban, Mexico (February 1996)
Monte Alban was once the holy city of at least 30,000 Zapotecs. It is Oaxaca's most interesting and extensively excavated ruin, yet they estimate that only 10% of the site has been excavated.
|Panorama of Monte Alban|
|Me in front of one of the wonderful carvings unearthed at Monte Alban|
|Mike exploring the ruins|
|Ball court, where they fought to the death|
Visit here to read my A-L posts. Tomorrow, it's onto Canada, Japan, and England.